The One In Which She Attempts The Impossible.

… that is, making a top 10 list of favorite hymns.

Here goes. 


Jesus, The Name High Over All – Lyrics – Charles Wesley,

tune – ? ACK! My hymnals are already packed and do you know that I can’t find the tune that I use anywhere on the World Wide InterWeb*? PHIL, it’s in Hymns II – can you look it up for me?!?! 

When my friend Bobbi was dying of cancer, leaving behind a husband and sweet 2 year old girl, this was one of the hymns that anchored her family – at the last moments of her life, Fred (her husband and partner in every way) crawled into bed with her, whispered this final verse into her ear – and she was gone. What mercy! We sang this hymn at our wedding (along with 12 others. It was a bit of a marathon – but a fun one!). I’ve only ever run across it in Hymns II – the InterVarsity Hymnal – which is why I can’t find the tune. Hmm. I’ll keep looking.

  1. Jesus, the name high over all,
    In hell, or earth, or sky:
    Angels and men before it fall,
    And devils fear and fly, and devils fear and fly.

  2. Jesus, the name to sinners dear,
    The name to sinners giv’n;
    It scatters all their guilty fear,
    And turns their hells to heav’n, and turns their hells to heav’n. 

  3. Jesus the prisoner’s fetters breaks,
    And bruises Satan’s head;
    Pow’r into strengthless souls He speaks,
    And life into the dead, and life into the dead.

  4. Oh, that the world might taste and see,
    The riches of His grace!
    The arms of love that compass me,
    Would all mankind embrace, would all mankind embrace.

  5. His only righteousness I show,
    His saving truth proclaim:
    ‘Tis all my business here below,
    To cry, ‘Behold the Lamb’, to cry, ‘Behold the Lamb!’

  6. Happy, if with my latest breath
    I might but gasp His name:
    Preach Him to all, and cry in death,
    “Behold, behold the Lamb! Behold! Behold the Lamb!”

Love Divine, All Loves Excelling  – lyrics – Charles Wesley, tune – Hyfrydol, Pritchard [is there any other? :)]

Of course Hyfrydol would make the list. The trick was in choosing which set of lyrics. I had to go with this one because of the final verse:

Finish then thy new creation, pure and spotless let us be,
Let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee.
Changed from glory into glory, ’til in heaven we take our place,
‘Til we cast our crowns before thee, lost in
wonder, love, and praise.

                                                                                [and you wondered where the blog got its name… ] 

Spiritual transformation has always been one of the ‘big ideas’ of following Jesus that has captured my attention, probably because of how hyper-aware I am of all the areas in my life that need CHANGE. I cling to Paul’s promise in II Corinthians 3 that, by the very virtue of walking with Christ, I am indeed BEING transformed. What hope!! We, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being changed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory.. now that’s what I’m talking about. And Love Divine sums it up so perfectly in that final verse, I can hardly stand it. There’s no better way to sing this one, in my opinion, than on a screaming organ as bright and loud as it can go, at a leading tempo, not a dragging one – in a sanctuary with a wide enough reverb so that the worshipping community can be heard in all its glory. Bring it on!

At The Lamb’s High Feast We Sing – you can see why I love this one here.

The Church’s One Foundation – Oh man. I had to include this one because of the verse that is left OUT of most hymnals. The Episcopal Hymnal – 1982 – which is notorious for leaving out any verses that have much of anything to do with personal accountability – actually includes this verse, and it makes me cry when I think that the broken and battered Episcopal Church is the one that actually sings the verse of hope and victory with schism on the horizon.

Yet with a scornful wonder men see her sore oppressed, 
By schism rent asunder, by heresies distressed,
Yet saints their watch are keeping, their cry goes up, “How long?”
And soon the night of weeping shall be the morn of song. 

Too much to bear – such language is too wonderful for me to attain… 

Fairest Lord Jesus – in my life as a Lutheran this hymn was referred to as ‘Beautiful Savior’. It’s nostalgic, I know, and it talks about meadows and trees and stuff, which isn’t usually my kind of hymn language. But this hymn is a master class in text writing – the way it moves to the final verse blows my mind.

The first verse introduces Jesus, the Lord, who is lovely. The second and third [and fourth, if you’re one of *those* churches 🙂 ], compare his loveliness to the fairest and most beautiful things of the earth – and clearly state that none of them can compare with him. But that final verse – finally using personal language for this Lord – Beautiful SAVIOR – Lord of the Nations – and ending doxologically – glory and honor, praise, adoration now and forevermore be Thine – well, again, it’s unbearably moving. And the melody is beautiful. If you want to hear it sung well, find some German Lutherans. 

Abide With Me – I suppose this might fall a bit in the same camp as ‘Fairest Lord Jesus’. But I love this hymn for its masterful anchoring in the Gospel of John – as we’re told that if we abide with Christ we will bear lasting fruit for the kingdom, this hymn is a simple prayer asking for God’s continued presence in every circumstance. When the organist kicks it up a notch for that final statement ‘Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee – in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me‘- – oh my. The best organ playing is the kind that you can’t just hear, but you can feel. This is one of those. 

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross Lyrics – Isaac Watts, Music – HAMBURG –

Not much to say about this one. It’s pretty much perfect. Other tunes are often used, but I think they’re too sing-songey. I can’t sing about the cross in 3/4. If the song lends itself to a beer stein in the hand, then it’s not a cross-worthy hymn. 😉

Jesus Shall Reign So, Carol and I have this one in common. As to singability, this tune – Duke Street – has to be one of the finest and most intuitive for the congregation to sing. And it lends itself perfectly to an 8-bar interlude with a power shift key change before the call-to-worship final verse ‘Let EVERY creature rise and bring peculiar anthems…‘ 

For All the Saints – Words – William Walsham How, tune – Sine Nomine – Ralph Vaughan Williams (sine nomine… no name…. love that guy. RVW is a hoot.)

I will often play this one at the conclusion of funeral services when the casket is being recessed out of the church into the hearse as it makes its journey to the burial ground. I play it simply, elegantly – an understanding of this hymn text was integral in my beginnings of understanding the great cloud of witnesses, the sainthood of all believers, to coin a phrase – and I think it’s the perfect soundtrack for the final journey of the shell. When the casket is covered with the pall representing baptism… well, I’m such a worship geek that I even get goofy at the thoughts of funeral music. Indeed, Carol. We’re cut out of the same cloth. Get it? 🙂

Back to Sine Nomine – but lo! There breaks a yet more glorious day/the saints triumphant rise in bright array/the King of Glory passes on His way – alleluia, alleluia! Yeah. Great, great stuff.

Lift High the Cross – George William Kitchen and Michael Robert Newbolt, tune ‘Crucifer’. 

Again, with my Lutheran youth – I was blessed to attend a church with a great organist. Denise was fabulous. She brought the hymns to life for me at a time when I was looking for something to believe in. My love of music and latent faith were a perfect storm of readiness when it came to the hymnal. 

I have never seen all of these verses in one place. Holy smokes, what a great hymn:

Lift high the cross,
the love of Christ proclaim
till all the world adore
his sacred Name.

Come, brethren, follow where our Captain trod,
our King victorious, Christ the Son of God. Refrain

Led on their way by this triumphant sign,
the hosts of God in conquering ranks combine. Refrain

Each newborn soldier of the Crucified
bears on the brow the seal of him who died. Refrain

This is the sign which Satan’s legions fear
and angels veil their faces to revere. Refrain

Saved by this Cross whereon their Lord was slain,
the sons of Adam their lost home regain. Refrain

From north and south, from east and west they raise
in growing unison their songs of praise. Refrain

O Lord, once lifted on the glorious tree,
as thou hast promised, draw the world to thee. Refrain

Let every race and every language tell
of him who saves our souls from death and hell. Refrain

From farthest regions let their homage bring,
and on his Cross adore their Savior King. Refrain

Set up thy throne, that earth’s despair may cease
beneath the shadow of its healing peace. Refrain

For thy blest Cross which doth for all atone
creation’s praises rise before thy throne. Refrain

We Come, O Christ, to Thee – I prefer to sing this to the tune ‘Darwall’s 148th’ [Rejoice, the Lord is King]. This was the single most important hymn of my college years – also found in the InterVarsity Hymnal. It was one of the first that I memorized intentionally. My devotional life has been marked by a Bible in one hand and a hymnal in the other ever since [except now there’s usually a Book of Common Prayer involved, too]. This is the most remarkable rally cry of a hymn – we worship You, Lord Christ, our Savior and our King/ to Thee our youth and strength adoringly we bring… as the years have gone by, I have realized that it isn’t asking for me to muster up strength – it’s simply asking that I bring that which I have at this moment. Today. That has been of remarkable help to me for many, many years.

We come, O Christ to thee, 
true Son of God and man,
by whom all things consist, 
in whom all life began:
in thee alone we live and move, 
and have our being in thy love.

Thou art the Way to God, 
thy blood our ransom paid;
in thee we face our Judge 
and Maker unafraid.
Before the throne absolved we stand, 
thy love has met thy law’s demand.

Thou art the living Truth! 
All wisdom dwells in thee,
thou source of every skill, 
eternal Verity!
Thou great I AM! In thee we rest, 
sure answer to our every quest.

Thou only art true Life, 
to know thee is to live
the more abundant life 
that earth can never give:
O risen Lord! We live in thee:
and thou in us eternally!

We worship thee, Lord Christ,
our Savior and our King,
to thee our youth and strength 
adoringly we bring:
so fill our hearts that men may see
thy life in us, and turn to thee!


Words: Margaret Clarkson (1915-);
© 1957 Hope Publishing Co., Carol Stream, IL 60188.
All rights reserved. Used by permission.




Honorable Mention – The Nashotah House Seminary Hymn – Firmly I Believe and Truly – Click here to find out why. Tune written by Canon Joseph Kucharski, Organist at All Saints Episcopal Cathedral in Milwaukee and music prof/organist at Nashotah House since… well, since eternity past. He’s like a piece of furniture there. How we love Joseph and his playing! 

Nashotah House Seminary Hymn

1. Firmly I believe and truly
God is three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly 
Manhood taken by the Son.

Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
de profundis oro te, 
Miserere, judex meus, 
parce mihi Domine.

2. And I trust and hope most fully 
In that Manhood crucified; 
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.

3. Simply to His grace and wholly 
Light and life and strength belong, 
And I love, supremely, solely, 
Him the holy, Him the strong.

4. And I hold in veneration, 
For the love of Him alone, 
Holy Church, as His creation, 
And her teachings as His own.

5. Adoration ay be given, 
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and heaven, 
Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Paraphrase of the Refrain:
Holy mighty, Holy God, 
from the depths I beseech thee,
have mercy, O my judge, 
spare me, O Lord.

Text from The Dream of Gerontius
John Henry Newman, 1801-1890

Tune composed by Canon Joseph A. Kucharski, Nashotah House


As I have looked over this list tonight, believe it or not, I would like to change it. If I do, it will never get posted – because tomorrow my top 10 will be different. And Can it Be… May the Mind of Christ my Savior… Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.. Blessed Assurance.. I mean, how can a top 10 leave those out??? Oh, this has been fun. Thanks, Carol, for spurring me on – and for helping me to waste a day sitting in a cluttered kitchen whilst thinking on these things. This was a whole lot more fun than folding laundry!


Note regarding anything contemporary – that will be another post. I, too, am a huge fan of Keith Getty and Stuart Townend [In Christ Alone, How Deep the Father’s Love for Us, The Power of the Cross], but because of the conference worship leading circles in which I run, these songs are coming close to running the risk of becoming the ‘Shine Jesus Shine’ of this generation.. a song that is SO GOOD that it is sung TOO MUCH.. it loses all meaning when done so often. I have to figure out how to avoid that. 


Back soon with more hymns!!! Thanks so much for stopping by. Consider yourself tagged to post your own – on your own blog, or in the comments here.

10 thoughts on “The One In Which She Attempts The Impossible.

  1. Oh, I want to Stop Everything (including the dessert half made) and start following your trails.

    Tomorrow. Or Thursday, if I am realistic, but who wants reality when this is Reality?

    I’ll work backwards: I love Firmly, I Believe and Truly on the VW Hymnal CD. I’d love to hear this tune.

    The Clarkson piece goes in the second ten. I love it and have loved it for a few decades. Another great pairing of words and tune.

    And I thought the wonder love and praise came from Fernando!

    For All the Saints – this hymn wooed me when I was 17. It is so appropriate for *every* occasion because we believe in the communion of saints. My friend Katie is astonished it didn’t make my top ten.

    I think Fairest Lord Jesus was my first piano solo, an arrangement by Gloria somebody. I love, love, love your commentary on it. My husband, Lutheran raised, remembers it as Beautiful Savior too.

    The Church’s One Foundation – I will NEVER NEVER forget the wedding where the bride walked down to a cello playing this unaccompanied. Oh, my friend, it was A Moment. Curt and I were almost to the sobbing stage by the time she got to the front of the church. Soooo beautiful. And so appropriate; one of those “why didn’t we think of this?” moments.

    I’m eager to explore.

    Thanks for doing this Steph. Wouldn’t it be so fun to spend an overnight going through hymnals together? Oh yeah!

    Did I ever tell you about cleaning basil with my dear Anglican friend (in her late seventies) singing our hearts out to RVW? It was glorious, an afternoon I’ll treasure all my life.

  2. Arhhhhg – all my hymnals are in my office – ‘cept one – which I ran around the house looking for – and yes! – it has the tune for Jesus the Name . . . tune is called “Lydia”. (Thomas Phillips, 1735-1807)

    Great list Steph – I’ll muse on this idea and try to come up with one myself, but I’ll admit, between you and Carol, many of my “favs” are already here.

    p.s. Thanks for calling me out Steph! 🙂 But I’m still going to use Welsh hymn tunes as my monniker!

    • ummm, not to be picky or anything, but your list has 11 hymns . . . (that’s without the honorable mention).

      Maybe you should retitle your list “Steph’s top 10 hymns – plus Hyrfydol” which of course goes without saying!

      BTW: I found “Jesus the Name” set to the tune Lydia in a hymnal entitled “Christian Hymns” published by the Evangelical Movement of Wales. (published 1977, revised 1985). I think you’ll find a lot of tunes from InterVarsity’s hymnal come from
      British hymnals.

    • Hey anonymous Welsh-Hymn-Tune-Monikered Friend —

      Exactly, about the IV hymns being English – many are from the Keswick hymnals, but many are from the… oh what’s it called, the English Hymnal? I have the really old one, and the updated one – and of course, they’re all packed. But those UK collections are some of my favorites. Definite Hymns II precursors…

      Thanks for your comments!!! 🙂

  3. I love that hymn, “For all the saints”. I will have to sit and ruminate on this post as well as what my other faves are.

    Ah, the Intervarsity Hymnal. Haven’t looked at mine in a long time. Must immediately go and blow off the dust!

  4. Someone else got it first, but since I sing a hymn out of Hymns II every night for our dear sons, I was going to say, “Lydia, 8686, pg. 45”

    LOL (I looked it up, of course.)

    Now I’ll go back to reading this post. Your part about our dear Bobbi made me teary.

    • Best processional hymn ever? Hymns II, #1–Praise to the Lord.

      But that’s just MHO.


      That’s the one we’re working on learning with the boys. Wish you were here to help teach the harmonies b/c I can’t sing harmony to my boys’ wavering, unsure yet melody.

      (Ethan is taking clarinet and wants to know everything about music theory NOW so he can rock in Garage Band on my Mac.)

      • oh, how i love garage band! oh, how i love singing hymns after dinner with the family gathered ’round. it’s not usually quite that romantic, but once we move and gather in the living room around the grand piano, that will help with the image. 🙂

        I LOVE hymn #1. Praise to the Lord is plain old fabulous. And with you and Tom singing, the boys will get it. It will come. I loved singing with you both at your mom’s party!

        Wish you were here so we could sing these together.


  5. Love your list! You have excellent taste my dear. 🙂 OK, a quick list, although I’m sure others will come to me:

    1. Great Is Thy Faithfulness is probably my “theme hymn”–can’t sing it without breaking down in tears of gratitude
    2. The Church’s One Foundation — the procession out of the church at our wedding–love the image of this one
    3. Fairest Lord Jesus–totally agree with your sentiments on that last verse. It just says it!
    4. For Hyfredol, I’m going to have to go with Alleluia! Sing to Jesus, although Love Divine keeps trying to edge it out for the top spot. 🙂
    5. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross–just the perfect hymn for Holy Week, although I’m torn on the hymn tune. I like Rockingham in our hymnal, but I learned it as a Baptist and that is usually the tune I revert to when I’m alone.
    6. At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing is on my list as well
    7. Nashotah Hymn–It will always be special, but I would love it anyway–the text, the hymn tune
    8. Come, Holy Ghost, Our Souls Inspire is a new favorite because of the ordinations.
    9. Christ is Made the Sure Foundation–Westminster Abbey–Love that descant
    10. Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence–I liked it before, but grew to like it even more in seminary

    And there are others that became very special during our time at the House. I think back to some of the “regulars” during Holy Week. Love them.

  6. An interesting list, to be sure. As to other tunes for “Love Divine,” Hyfrydol is great. (Got a chance to meet Robert Harkness years ago. His arrangement of the tune is the one usually used.) Beecher is often used, but I like the former better. And try Blaenwern sometime. (This one works well with “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” too.)

    I see that you’ve got “For All the Saints” on the list. Today is the anniversary of the death of Ralph Vaughn Williams, composer of the tune Sine Nomine. (Who can’t admire the whimsy of calling your tune “Without a Name”!)

    To check out the results of an extensive poll in 1990 (and one in 1953) of “Top 10 Hymns,” see my blog for today.

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